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What Homeowners in New York Need to Know About Radon
According to the New York State Department of Health, the threat of radon in basements and living areas in New York homes is a significant cause for concern. Many counties throughout New York are completely or partially located in Zone 1 areas. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assigns Zone 1 status to locations in which indoor radon is above acceptable levels, posing a substantial threat to human health.
Radon Radioactive Gas
Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in rock and soil wherever uranium is present. Uranium decays into radium which then decays into radon. This invisible, odorless gas is undetectable by human senses and can be breathed in as you sleep or move around your home. A high enough exposure for a lengthy enough period of time has a carcinogenic effect on the human body.
Breathing in radon particles can damage sensitive lung tissue. The Surgeon General of the United States reports that radon is the primary cause of lung cancer in people who do not smoke. Smoking (or being around a smoker) and being exposed to radon raises the risk of developing radon-induced lung cancer even higher. Each year some 21,000 Americans die from lung cancer attributed to radon pollution, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Radon in New York Homes
Radon invades your home by seeping through cracks in your foundation, supporting structures (such as hollow block walls), and unsealed dirt floors (such as unfinished basements or crawl spaces). When radon is emitted into the outside air, it becomes diluted enough to be rendered harmless, but radon that is trapped under a home can build up to dangerous concentrations. Pulled into the house by depressurization or forced into it by outside air movements like high winds, radon can threaten your family’s respiratory health.
The only sure way to know if your family is at risk for indoor radon is to perform a test. Radon testing kits are available at local hardware stores, home improvement centers, and many supermarkets. Short-term tests usually take from 2 to 7 days to administer and give you an idea of the current level of radon in your home. Long-term tests can take from 3 months to 1 year and give you an annual average of indoor radon levels. The results of either test can provide you with your radon exposure in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The EPA recommends taking action to reduce radon when the level is over 4 pCi/L, but any amount of radon can be unhealthy.
If you test your New York home, or have it tested by a radon specialist, you may find that some form of radon reduction is needed. A certified radon mitigation specialist can help you decide which approach is best for your home and level of indoor radon. Homes with basements or slab on grade need different types of remedies than houses with crawlspaces. Some structures have specific areas of radon entry, while others have more diffuse entry paths. A certified radon mitigation specialist is trained to know which method to apply to which type of structure.